Chef Bhuku

By Progress Mwareya
Chef Bhuku

He killed some oxens and brewed some beer. He was good at it and famed at it, skinning the animals, preparing the meat or brushing its dead carcass as well as boiling the froth of fresh beer in a huge clay pot. Chief Bhuku was told that he would take Thomas one day to Mt Makumbura where the chiefs were buried, but Thomas he was told he should keep his mouth and eyes closed, if he sees anything. 

They entered the cave seeing some skulls that looked like they had fallen from vanquished Stone Age. Thomas’s heart was beating, he was sweating and his chest pounded with anxiety, walking nearest to the chief for he feared that any slip of the tongue could be followed by his slipping into the abyss.


The chief marked a cave and told Thomas, “I am about to die so when I die bury me in this cave.” They were firm and short instructions and Thomas’ hair was on the edge, his thoughts stiff as they returned home but he was told not to tell anyone and he was given a sharp knife. “These promises of silence are not to be broken,” Chief Bhuku told him.

If I break this vow of silence my life breaks apart, Thomas kept rehearsing his thoughts as they glided down fallen pine trees that lined the slopes down Mt Makumbura.


Because Chief Bhuku was blind and because Thomas was acting as the chief’s aide, Bhuku informed Brian who was the chief’s army commander, that their journey to Mt. Makumbura had gone well. Brian and his troops had just finished two months of training in the bush without contact with their families. So, a day later Chief Bhuku gathered the villagers and called his army to show them their superior tactics. The army appeared boisterously, dancing on thorns without shoes and braving the sharp pricks. ‘Hiyaaa! Ho,’ was the sound of the army as it thundered into the village gathered by for the showpiece. As the day went on, Thomas told his grandfather, Chief Bhuku, that he wanted to recover his father’s wealth from Chief Dube. “It must be done before you go to the other side to join the ancestors,” Thomas said.


Chief Bhuku, his frail old grandfather twisted his left arms fingers and looked sternly at Thomas. “So you want to?” he asked Thomas.

“Of course, the army is sharp now,” Thomas replied.

His grandfather grudgingly agreed and insisted the wealth must be recovered but nobody must be killed in the process. A week later, Thomas dispatched his army commanded by Brian and the troops spent just five days to arrive at Chief Dube’s village. They surrounded the village during the night and early morning half of the army went straight to the house of Chief Dube.


“We come in peace,” a commander from Thomas’s army thundered via a kudu animal horn to make sure the message rang throughout Chief Dube’s villages which were located in a shallow valley.


“It’s so unusual,” said Chief Dube to his troops and advisors, balancing a calabash of sour cow milk and marveling at a herd of 300 cattle that foraged for grass in front of his wooden palace. “It’s so unusual – an adversary’s army coming in peace.”

One of the army commanders stepped forward into Chief Dube’s courtyard, wiggling his waist as if in boastful bravado. He stopped by the royal garden and told chief Dube that Thomas had sent them to collect his late father’s lost wealth – 100 cows. “We come in peace, to collect Thomas father’s 100 cows that your men seized as the symbol of victory a decade ago.”


“Do we believe them – these liars? Is this a trap?” Chief Dube said, gesturing to his court ministers about Thomas’s army that had gathered outside his kraal – ‘in peace.’ Chief Dube refused the demand from Thomas’s commanders but before saliva could dry on his lips, one of his courtroom ministers who was a traditional herbalist and spirit medium promptly changed into a hyena. Chief Dube fell into a trance and attempted to flee his royal court but the hyena minister grabbed back his hands, “they come in peace,” he commanded Chief Dube.


It was then, sweat drying on his nose that Chief Dube whistled his horn and gathered his villagers and ordered the villagers to surrender some domestic animals and give to Thomas’s army 100 cows. With a loud voice, the villagers refused, “We won’t surrender our livestock!”

Thomas and commanders were disgruntled but didn’t draw their spears. Before they could leave, Chief Dube’s court ministers slayed one large oxen to feed Thomas’ army lavishly. Upon return to Thomas, Chief Bhuku asked if anyone had been killed in the army’s foray to Chief Dube’s territory.


“None,” Thomas’s commander said, bowing his head to the sun. When they arrived at Thomas, chief Bhuku asked if they had killed anyone but the answer was none.

“Let’s celebrate!” thundered Chief Dube who jumped around a fire that was cooking a large calabash of festival beer. “You returned in peace,” he said and slumped to the ground – to sleep forever.

The Army commander gathered the villagers for the funeral wake and told them that Thomas was the new chief. “Chief Bhuku wanted to die in peace and Thomas didn’t do it yet – he told me the secret of his favorite burial cave too.”


23 March, 2023